This may sound a bit off, but consider this a pastoral confession:
I enjoy being involved with people at their greatest point of loss.
There is nothing more tragic than the loss of someone you love. Death is hard, no matter when it comes. As a pastor, I am often involved in helping people through the loss of their loved one, and it is a sincere joy for me to be there to catch them when they fall apart.
Let me be clear: I believe that God is the one who catches them, He just happens to use my physical arms to do the catching.
There is something sweet about helping a family say good-bye. There are those unique moments in ministry when we get to stand with a family when the are reminded to return to the core of who they are and not what they have.
As a pastor, I’ve been invited to release people to death, stand with them next to the dead, make arrangements of for the body of the dead, plan the future (even if that is only one step at a time), and speak at a funeral. These are some of the hardest moments any person has to endure.
The type of ministry opportunities a loss brings to a person’s life only come a handful of times in our lifetime. I try my best not to miss these moments because you’ll never get them back. There is nothing like them.
Oh the joy that comes to my heart to weep with those who weep, mourn with those who mourn, and rejoice with those who rejoice. I am a servant to God, that means that I provide physical presence to the places His Spirit resides. My cooperation with the Holy Spirit can be the very comfort God intends to give in those with greatest need for Him.
Along the way, I’ve learned some lessons (maybe even the hard way). I want to share them with you, should you find yourself given the opportunity to stand for God in a gap of another person’s loss.
When it comes to speaking at a funeral or helping a family in the days preceding, I try to keep these three things in mind:
SINCERITY. When you share, it must be from your heart, if it is not everyone will know. A lack of compassion can be obvious to all those around (like bad breath – we all know you have it, but you don’t know).
BREVITY. The last thing someone who has experienced loss wants to hear is a sermon. You must be brief. Allow your presence to speak louder than you words. I’ve had many people say to me after the days of immediate loss has passed, “I don’t remember anything you said, but I remember that you are there.” When you are with the person in private, keep your words to only what is necessary. When you visit at the hospital or home, don’t over stay your welcome – stay briefly or give them permission to ask you to leave when they desire to be alone. If you are asked to share at the funeral, ask how long and shoot for even shorter. Don’t speak longer than you are suppose to, for you will only be a resounding gong and will become a source of frustration more than a source of comfort.
SENSITIVITY. You must be sensitive – turn all your senses to “High”. Talk in all verbal and non-verbal cues. Make sure that you are allow your presence to portray sympathy, and where possible, empathy as well.
Remember, caring for someone, whether you are a pastor or not, is a high calling. You are called provide a physical sense of Christ’s presence. Don’t take this lightly. What a blessing it is to be with someone on Christ’s behalf.